Friday, August 31, 2012

Why and How to Visit The San Blas Islands in Panama - 8-31-2012

From August 15th until the morning of August 18th, I was on a sailing charter that cruised through Panama's San Blas Islands. I can tell you without exaggeration that the San Blas Islands are among the most beautiful places on Earth, and certainly one of the most beautiful places I have seen myself. And with 380 individual islands, some only yards long and wide, you can check out a new island every day of the year with a bit left over.

This post covers the history of the San Blas Islands where to stay, and how to get here. Subsequent posts will cover my three day cruise through San Blas (which was awesome, thanks for asking).

Isla Pero (Dog Island)
History of the San Blas Islands and the Kuna Yala Comerica:

The San Blas Islands are part the Kuna Yala Comerica, which is a semi-autonomous region of Panama. The indigenous people, the Kuna Yala, have had contact with Europeans since the 1600s and are a fiercely independent people. In 1924, they violently rose up against the Panamanian government in response to adverse policies affecting the area. Shrewd diplomats, the Kuna Yala struck a deal with the American military. When Panamanian military elements moved to respond to the uprising, a Yankee gunboat was waiting for them. Backed by the Americans, and powered with their deep sense of sovereignty, the Kuna Yala negotiated their own constitution with the Panamanians, and autonomy within Panama. Subsequent constitutions have ceded more and more autonomy to the Kuna Yala. Today, the Kuna pay no Panamanian income taxes, have their own governance and police force and control all development within the Kuna Yala Comerica, including the San Blas Islands. Panama takes care of all international affairs and military defense of the Kuna Yala Comerica, and only interferes in Kuna law enforcement in the most serious circumstances such as murder.

Kuna Village
San Blas Today:

The Kuna have severely limited commercial and resort development in the San Blas Islands, making the area somewhat "rough" for typical Western tourists. Don't expect nice hotels, electricity, or even running water if you stay on an island with the Kuna. Do expect to bathe in rainwater from a bucket and use an outhouse sitting over the water on an isolated part of an island. The upside is that the islands are nearly completely unspoiled; you get NONE of the obnoxious, high density resorts and high rise hotels that dot Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, for instance. You also get the clearest, most pristine water you may see outside of Belize or the Maldives, and you get thick, verdant jungles on many islands.

Fresh fish
Island Accommodations:

Several Kuna families in San Blas host backpackers in Kuna "hostels." Like regular hostels, these hostels have dorm beds and private cabins. The dorms and cabins will be spare...don't expect mattresses or electricity. Do expect some bugs in the cabins, and again...expect to bathe from a bucket and use an outhouse for your toilet. Meals are included in your stay; expect simple rice dishes and seafood. If you get hungry, though, nearly all Kuna accommodations offer guests the opportunity to purchase fresh crab, lobster and fish pulled from the ocean that afternoon.

Unlike regular hostels, you have to book these Kuna hostels either through a hostel or hotel in Panama City, or through a travel company like Panama Travel Unlimited. Different hostels, hotels and travel companies have relationships with different Kuna. So check around to see which place offers nights at the Kuna island most suited to you. Expect to pay between $35 and $150 per person per night depending on the food offered, island you'll be staying on, tours included, and whether you booked a private room or dorm. One hostel I stayed at in Panama City, Mamallena Backpackers, has relations with several Kuna families and offers a range of budget options to stay with the Kuna. Mamallena's owners also own Panama Travel Unlimited, which offers more expensive options to stay with the Kuna.

Travelers I met stayed two or three nights with the Kuna, but you certainly have the option to stay longer. The people I met cited boredom and "island fever" by the third day as their reason for moving on from San Blas.

So relaxing...
Sailing Charters Through San Blas:

Not looking to shower from a bucket? Rather not commit to one island for several days? Book a boat charter! My friends and I used our hostel, Mamallena Backpackers to arrange transportation to and from Carti, which is where the water taxi picked us up to take us to our boat. We arranged our boat charter by contacting a captain directly, however (see below). Mamallena Backpackers in Panama City, and other hostels and hotels in Panama City, have relationships with tour companies and boat captains and can definitely assist you. The list at the end of this post offers several reputable sailing charter companies you can contact, including the one my friends and I used.

Expect to pay between $125 and $175 per person per night for a San Blas Islands boat charter.

Getting to the San Blas Islands:

My friends and I used our hostel in Panama City, Mamallena Backpackers to arrange transportation to and from Carti, which is where the water taxi picked us up to take us to our boat. We arranged our boat charter by contacting a captain directly, however (see below). Mamallena Backpackers and other hostels and hotels in Panama City will have relationships with tour companies and boat captains and can definitely assist you too.

Expect to pay about $60 round trip for the 4x4 taxi ride between Panama City and Carti. Also expect to be picked up from your hostel or hotel around 5AM. The trip should take three or four hours. Taxes to enter Kuna territory are $3 and are payable upon entrance to the Comerica. The water taxi from Carti to the islands or your boat should cost $10 to $15, depending on which island you're headed to.

If you want to contact a tour company or boat captain yourself, start with the following reputable operators. Please note that different captains will have different sized boats, so be sure to ask about boat size and how many people the boat can comfortably accomodate.

1) Panama Travel Unlimited -- This company is owned by the same folks who own Mamallena Backpackers in Panama City. The company has relationships with numerous captains, and even some Kuna if you'd like to stay on an island instead of on a boat.

2) Captain Mats of the boat Da Capo -- This is the boat my friends and I used. Captian Mats has a reputation for being well...moody. He treated my friends and I great, however, and fed us really well. I would recommend using him, if you're OK with sharing the boat with his girlfriend (a great cook!) and their six year old son (somewhat hyperactive).

3) Yacht Latina -- As of August 2012, this company has been operating for about six months, but has a positive reputation. They have two boats.

4) Sailing One World -- The One World is a custom-built 64 foot brigantine schooner. She's got plenty of space and plenty of sail to take you where you need to go.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I'm (Going To Be) On A Boat!

Wizard Beach, Bocas Del Toro, Panama. Not San Blas.
One of the folks in my hostel here in Panama City, a high strung but good hearted Austrian guy, organized a sailing charter! I'm headed to the San Blas Islands in the morning for three (with the option to extend to four) nights of sailing, snorkeling, and swimming through Panama's unspoiled frontier with my intense Austrian friend and a Dutch woman. I've heard so much good stuff about the San Blas Islands, especially how peaceful and beautiful they are. This sounds like a great way to cap off my trip, and heading out to San Blas was definitely on my list of things to do on this trip. Particularly cool is how it all came together after I had released my attachment to making it out to San Blas.

Thanks Universe!

In any case, I'll be out of touch until August 18th, perhaps August 19th. Be good!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Summer Days in Panama City, Panama - 8-13-2012

El Cangrejo, Panama City, Panama

I've been back in Panama City, Panama for four days now. I came back to see about arranging a sailing charter to the San Blas Islands, an unspoiled archipelago inhabitated by the Kuna People. The Kuna eschew electricity and running water, but do put tourists up in simple cabins...that lack electricity and running water. I wanted to cruise around the islands on a sailboat for a few days because I'd prefer to island hop and find secret snorkel spots over posting up on a single island for a few days and use a bucket for toilet. Call me pretentious.

I've contacted five sailing companies and it looks like I'm out of luck. Who knew that returning nearly two weeks before I leave the country wouldn't be enough notice to get a shared charter going? Oh well...there's always next trip.

El Cangrejo, Panama City, Panama
Since it looks like I won't be able to line up a shared charter, I've instead been exploring Panama City with people I've met at the hostel. A couple days ago, I took a woman from Michigan through Casco Viejo. Yesterday, I explored Calle Uruguay and the Bella Vista district alone and found a set of stairs going up several hundred feet to a quiet and beautiful neighborhood tucked away in the hills just inland from the Cinta Costera. Today, I took an Australian woman on my walk from the previous day, and then we explored the El Congrejo district together for several hours. I had a great time both days playing tour guide for my new friends and finding a new district today. She and I even had lunch at an upscale lunch place on Calle Uruguay called The Market, was decorated with such California sophistication that we could have been in the Ferry Building in San Francisco or in Newport Beach.

I'm coming to really like Panama City. It's much more energetic, vibrant and wealthy (in parts) than San Jose, Costa Rica...the only other Latin American capital city I've explored to this point. Calle Uruguay's lounges and upscale bars, Bella Vista's tree lined avenues and cute restaurnts and shops, and El Congrejo's relentless energy and hectic activity offer living proof that Panama City has a true city life. I could totally live here, and I think spending my last seven days in-country exploring Panama City would be an excellent use of my time.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Three Picture Perfect Beaches In Bocas Del Toro, Panama - 8-9-2012

Wizard Beach, Bocas Del Toro, Panama

I spent seven days in Bocas Del Toro, interrupted only by a three day trip to Puerto Viejo. It rained heavily, day and night, three of my first four days in Bocas. The three days of my return trip, though, were beautiful and were perfect for lazy beach hopping and swimming in crystal clear water.

Playa Estrella

Playa Estrella, Bocas Del Toro, Panama
Playa Estrella is a gorgeous white sand beach on Isla Colon with gentle waves, no swells and no riptides to speak of. Named for the numerous starfish that sit in its shallow bottom, and conveniently lined with wooden tables protected from the rain by canvas shelters this beach was custom made for an easy afternoon of swimming and snorkeling. I came here on a rainy day with six friends from Hostel Heike during my first trip through Bocas and it remains my favorite beach in the archipelago. The beach runs up against a thick, verdant jungle loud with cicadas and birds. Playa Estrella's beauty was apparent even under dark, rainy skies. My friends and I spent a good hour floating, snorkeling and swimming in the warm, clear water. Don't expect to be alone, though. Playa Estrella has a bar serving stiff drinks and is popular with tourists.

Getting to Playa Estrella is easy, but time consuming. Pick up the minibus across the street from Hostel Heike in Bocas Town at 7am, 10am, noon, 3pm, or 5pm. The one hour ride will cost about $1.00 and will wind across the island until you reach the northwest side and the small settlement of Bocas Del Drago. From here, walk along the beach for about 25 minutes, following the signs asking that you not touch the starfish. Alternatively, pay a water taxi $1.00 for a 10 minute ride to Playa Estrella. I recommend you walk because the entire way is a picturesque beach and jungle walk around or over leaning palm trees and through low waves. Pick up the return bus back in Bocas Del Drago at 8am, 11am, 1pm, 4pm and 6pm. You can also bike to the beach from Bocas Town, but expect that to take about 90 minutes each way.

Wizard Beach

Wizard Beach, Bocas Del Toro, Panama
Also known as Playa Primera, Wizard Beach is on the far side of Isla Bastimentos from Isla Colon. The day I went with friends, we saw only about ten other people on the miles long beach. Expect Wizard to be similarly deserted when you go. Wizard Beach features gorgeous white-yellow sand and a thick green jungle that comes almost right up to the clear, warm water. Numerous tide pools provide plenty of chances to see small fish, or to soak in relatively still water. Exercise caution when swimming outside of these tide pools, though because the currents at Wizard Beach are strong and can be turbulent. Wizard Beach is a great beach to visit to just get away from everything, or to explore a beach side jungle. My friends and I spent two hours here talking, reading, swimming, and quietly enjoying the sound of crashing waves. Even on a trip replete with relaxation, Wizard Beach left me feeling particularly peaceful.

Wizard Beach, Bocas Del Toro, Panama
You can get to Wizard Beach a few ways. Your day long snorkel tour might stop here, but probably not. Alternatively, you could start at Red Frog Beach and hike through the jungle. That's not advisable, though, because of the laughably deep mud and poorly marked trail connecting the two beaches. A separate path also leads from Wizard Beach to the small settlement of Old Bank. When dry, this path takes about half an hour. Budget at least twice what after a rain because the path turns to muck when wet. I recommend doing what my two friends from Mondo Taitu and I did -- hire a water taxi to take you out here and agree upon a time to be picked up. Expect to pay at least $10 per person round trip for this. We paid $10 per person and our water taxi guy still made us hike 45 minutes through knee deep mud to get picked up at Red Frog Beach instead of Wizard Beach. If you pay more than $10 per person, make sure you get picked up at Wizard Beach.

Red Frog Beach

Red Frog Beach, Bocas Del Toro, Panama
Red Frog Beach is on Isla Bastimentos and is next to Wizard Beach. What Red Frog beach lacks in gentle waves or peaceful isolation, it more than makes up for with amenities and the chance to see a rare species of frog. The beach gets its name from the strawberry poison-dart frog, a rare frog you'll want to keep your eyes out for because of its beauty. There is a small resort, Red Frog Lodge, in the area and a bar at the end of the beach. This makes Red Frog beach a good place to be around other people, grab a drink or by some some food. I recommend the hamburger and fries from the beach bar.

Red Frog Beach is a beach in transition. Large scale resort development here has been rumored for years and could indeed happen. The area near the beach bar is a typical beach, with volleyball nets and sun chairs. The opposite end of the beach is more wild though. Like Wizard Beach, small tide pools dot the yellow-white beach, and leaning palm trees provide obstacles to climb over. Unlike Wizard Beach, jungle gives way to some grassland halfway down the beach. The water is warm, of course, but do watch out for strong currents and riptides when swimming.

Red Frog Beach, Bocas Del Toro, Panama
Red Frog Beach is easily accessible by water taxi; many of the day long snorkel tours stop here as well. A water taxi from Bocas Town should cost about $10 each way. The water taxi will drop you at a dock not far from Red Frog Beach. Catch the free shuttle that runs between the dock and the beach bar.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bocas del Toro and Boquete, Panama update - 8-8-2012

Hostel Mondo Taitu, Bocas Del Toro, Panama

My return to Bocas Del Toro after the side trip to Puerto Viejo was good. I was looking for a quieter hostel than Hostel Heike, but still social, so I checked into Mondo Taitu for three days. Mondo Taitu is owned by five American gents, three of whom rotate between the US and Panama to run the business. I met two of the owners, Jack and Ari. Both were good, helpful folks who answered a lot of my questions regarding what running a hostel in Panama is like. The hostel itself was kind of dark, and somewhat cluttered with surf and island knick-knacks, but all that stuff definitely added to the hostel's atmosphere.

Wizard Beach, Bocas Del Toro, Panama
I spent most of my time at Mondo Taitu hanging out with two solo travelers I met, Dann (Canadian) and Robert (English). We did some exploring, including hiring a water taxi to take us to Wizard Beach on Isla Bastimentos, enjoying having a picturesque beach with bath warm water all to ourselves, and hiking through knee deep mud for 45 minutes to reach Red Frog Beach. The weather was beautiful, so I did manage to take some great tropical paradise pictures. All in all, my return to Bocas was active, fun, tiring, and still involved meeting great people.

Hot Springs Outside of Boquette, Panama
I've been in Boquete for two days now. Boquette is several hours south of Bocas del Toro and back on the mainland. It's in the heart of Panama's coffee country. I spent the first day and a half getting over a cold I picked up from too much living in Bocas and Puerto Viejo. Today, a German friend from the hostel, Daria, and I took an hour bus ride and an hour hike out to some mineral hot springs near the small town of Caldera. The water was almost too hot, but the scenery was amazing. When we were done, she and I walked back to our bus stop through a pounding thunderstorm that did not relent until we returned to the hostel two hours later. Whew! Thunder crashed what seemed right on top of us several times.

I'm headed to Panama City on Friday to see if I can arrange a trip to the San Blas Islands in Panama's eastern frontier. I've heard again and again that the islands are the most spectacularly beautiful scenery in this country, so I just have to see for myself.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Three Quiet Hours in Panama Viejo - 7-26-2012

Panama Viejo, Panama City, Panama

Panama Viejo, or Old Panama, is the original city of Panama that Henry Morgan burned down in 1671. The Welsh privateer split his forces in two and flanked the defenders. The poorly trained Spaniards broke and Morgan looted the richest city in the New World. A fire that either Morgan and his men or the defending Captain-General started burned the conquered city to the ground. Morgan was arrested and taken back to England because his attack violated a treaty between England and Spain. Morgan proved he knew nothing about the treaty and subsequently knighted then appointed Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica. Captain Jack Sparrow should do so well.

Today, Panama Viejo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ruins run inland along a swampy lowland near the seashore in Panama City's far southeast. From my hostel, Hostal Aleman, the ruins were a 20 minute walk south and east. In the early afternoon sun, though, it felt much longer. Definitely bring water, no matter when you visit.

Panama Viejo is accessible just off a major road, but I took a detour through the surrounding neighborhood because I was curious about it. I did not wish to be rude, so I did not take pictures, but the neighborhood surrounding the ruins is struggling. Some of the houses looked like they could collapse at any moment. Many houses had heaps of trash in the front yards, and there was trash in the streets. Still, children played and parents watched over them dutifully. More than one resident asked if I was looking for "la ruena", the ruins, and helpfully pointed me southwest towards them.

I approached the ruins from their eastern end. This part of ruins are particularly poorly maintained. I waded through knee high grass that I didn't know was knee high until I stepped into gopher holes and hidden puddles. I nearly twisted my ankle when I stepped awkwardly into a particularly deep hole. Be careful if you approach the ruins from the east. To the west, modern Panama City's glass and steel skyscrapers rise several miles away.

Moving west, I followed stone paths past sections of centuries-old walls. I pass only three other visitors today; the ruins are nearly completely deserted. The ruins are quiet as a tomb except for the occasional chirp of a far off bird, or the chatter of crickets. I am only a couple miles from the noise and horns of a major street, but I feel hundreds of miles...and years...from 21st century Panama City. Very few buildings are identified, but the ruins stretch for hundreds of yards before me. No one is sure how large Panama Viejo is since much of the surrounding area is coastal lowlands, swamp, or barrio. It feels large, though.

Panama Viejo, Panama City, Panama
I come upon the ruins of Panama Viejo's old church, the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Cathedral of Our Lady of Asunción), built between 1619 and 1626, and the best-preserved building of the ruins. Not much remains, but I can see that what does hints at a tall, wide, majestic building with two side chapels so the building makes a cross shape when viewed from the heavens. A portrait of the Virgin Mary looks down on me gently from the wall behind where the altar once stood. Moving north and west past the church, towering wall sections stand silently. Birds of prey patiently sit at the top of a few sections.

Just north of the cathedral are the massive ruins of Casa Alarcón, the town's best-preserved and largest known private residence, which dates from the 1640s.

I spend about an hour among the ruins of what was once the New World's richest city. Though your own interest in archaeology might be limited, I do recommend visiting Panama Viejo. The juxtaposition of old Panama City's ruins with its sophisticated modern incarnation in the background is worth the visit. Finding an oasis of silence and calm among a crowded, steaming, chaotic metropolis is a good second reason.

Getting there:
Every cabbie in the city knows "La Ruena de Panama Viejo" is a major tourist attraction. A ride there from anywhere in the city should cost no more than $6.00. Cabs can also be found near the ruins, or on the main streets several blocks outside the ruins. Alternatively, you can take a Metro Bus or a diablo rojo to Panama Viejo, which will have stops near the ruins, but not at the ruins. The ruins themselves are surrounded by a very low-income neighborhood. The residents are accustomed to seeing backpackers and several people helpfully offered directions to me the afternoon I visited. Still, I recommend you NOT visit La Ruena after dark, as they are neither patrolled nor well lit.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

How to Spend a Day in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica - 8-5-2012

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

After spending three days in Bocas Del Toro, Panama at the end of July 2012, I took a side trip to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Puerto Viejo is a great little sea side town on Costa Rica's Caribbean side, about an hour north of the Panamanian border. Puerto Viejo definitely has a stronger Afro-Caribbean feel than anywhere I have visited on Costa Rica's Pacific Coast. We saw plenty of sun despite visiting during the rainy season.

There are plenty of hostels and budget hotels in town, but three are worth mentioning. Rocking J's is about a 15 minute walk south out of town and is Lonely Planet's pick for Puerto Viejo. This huge, beach side hostel sports its own bar and a sizable built-in backpacker community with which to hang out. Rocking J's also enjoys a party spot reputation, making it a great place to party and meet folks.

Just north and across the street from Rocking J's is it's polar opposite, La Ruca. La Ruca is smaller, much quieter, and much more hippie. When my traveling companions and I walked in, several bearded hippie guys were strumming guitars and smoking while their female companions listened quietly. The friendly staff showed us a private room and the dorms. I liked the granola vibe, the private bathroom attached to the private room, and the numerous trees and flowers on the property, but my traveling companions were looking for something more...conventional.

Lazy Mon is right in town, right on the beach, offers a dorm and several private rooms with balconies overlooking the beach. There's a bar restaurant right downstairs that features foosball tables and talented singer-songwriter music nearly every night. Its location in the heart of Puerto Viejo, chill vibe, and beach side access made it a great choice for my traveling companions and I. Dorm beds are $15 per night and private rooms are $25 per night.

Baby Sloth at Jaguar Rescue Center, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Once you've checked in to your place, you'll definitely want to check out Puerto Viejo's list of things to do. At the top of that list for my traveling companions and I was the Jaguar Rescue Center, a 25 minute bike ride south of town. We rented bikes for $5 for the whole day at a spot across the street from Lazy Mon. The Jaguar Rescue Center doesn't have any jaguars, and only very rarely does. The center is named after the first animal they tried to save, a jaguar. The center does have monkeys, plenty of baby sloths and a whole lot of snakes. Do note that the center is neither a zoo, nor a preserve. The center nurses injured animals back to health and then releases them into the wild as soon as they are ready. Certain animals can't be released back into the wild because they were kept as pets. These animals are instead released into the nearby forest, also part of the preserve, and are regularly offered food if their hunting skills are weak (perhaps because their parents were killed and were unable to teach the animal wilderness skills). Highlights of the tour included seeing baby three toed and two toed sloths and having monkeys climb all over us for 15 minutes in the monkey reserve.

Tours happen every two hours and last about two hours in total. The preserve conducts tours in English and Spanish. Entrance is $15. Contact them at 506-2750-0710 or Check out their website at

Punta Uva, Costa Rica
About 15 minutes south of the Jaguar Rescue Center by bike is Punta Uva with Playa Manzanillo about 10 minutes further south of that. Punta Uva is a beautiful white sand beach that emerges from thick jungle. It's in the community of Cocles, which has several restaurants and hostels, so don't expect to be alone. Also, don't try to swim outside of the red flags posted on the beach because the rip tides get bad there.

Playa Manzanillo, Costa Rica
For a truly deserted beach, bike south to Playa Manzanillo. There are few signs, but you'll see beach access through trails that lead through the thick jungle and mangrove swamp. The brief trek from road to beach is worth it, though. Playa Manzanillo is a picture perfect, deserted, white sand beach with clear warm water and moderate currents. My companions and I spent about an hour there sunning and taking pictures of the beach's striking beauty. Palm trees stretched over turquoise waters, and thick green jungle hid all sings of the road and human civilization. Aside from my traveling companions, not a single person disturbed the peace. If you've got the time, go to Playa Manzanillo. you've visited an animal rescue center and biked to two beaches...the second of which is nearly beautiful beyond words. How do you cap off your day? Tasty Waves is a small bar just north of Rocking J's and is the perfect place to go nuts with the locals (Tuesday night is when the entire town hits up Tasty Waves) or melt into the Caribbean ease with a beer and a game of pool on the other nights of the week. Alternatively, you could hit up Stanford's bar beneath Lazy Mon for foosball and live music. The live music ends around 9:00PM, though, so you could easily start your night at Lazy Mon and end at Tasty Waves. A cab ride from town to Tasty Waves should cost no more than $5 round trip. Make sure to arrange a time for your driver to pick you up because it's a long, dark walk back into town from Tasty Waves.

Safety Notes:
Our hostel's manager, Justin, advised that parts of the town are not safe for tourists after dark. Take a cab if traveling after dark, especially of going to the bars in the far south end of town like Tasty Waves.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Back to Panama After All - 8-2-2012

View from Lazy Loft, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

You can disregard my last post.

It's raining today in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Hard. It started last night with the strobe of lightning and the crash of thunder. My Irish traveling companion is going to San Jose, Costa Rica today. I'm staying one more night to listen to the rain and enjoy peace before heading back to Bocas Del Toro, Panama in the morning.

I don't regret interrupting my Panama trip to visit Puerto Viejo. I don't regret meeting Jen from Dublin. I certainly don't regret the fevered rush of promises made by and to a beautiful woman an hour from sunrise, made potent by four year old Flor de Cana, made intoxicating by the sound of summer thunderstorms and sweetened by the slow swing dance moves I taught her in the early morning. It's almost always the things I didn't do that I regret...not the things I did do.

Panama waits for me; new towns wait for me too. And perhaps on a bus, or in a hostel, or on a tour, a new traveling companion waits for me too. I can't wait to show her how to swing dance.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bocas del Toro and Back in Costa Rica - 8-1-2012

Bocas Del Toro, Panama

As usual, I haven't been keeping up with my blog because I've been doing a lot and meeting amazing people on the road. Stay tuned for a post about Panama Viejo (the original Panama City).

Anyway, speaking of amazing people, I've met one such person. After Panama City, I headed up to Bocas del Toro, a backpacker hub and picture perfect archipelago not far from the Costa Rican border. I spent five rainy days there swimming and snorkeling happily in water that was almost bathwater warm. On my last day in Bocas, I met a really cool Irish woman who was headed through Costa Rica and then into Nicaragua to spend the last two weeks of her vacation before heading home to Dublin. Using ungodly amounts of rum and coke, a girlish smile, and the beautiful black magic all Irish brunettes seem to wield, she convinced me to blow up my plans for a solo trip through Panama to travel back into Costa Rica with her. That happened at 4:00AM on a Monday (I think). Four hours of sleep later, it still seemed like a good idea. We've been in Puerto Viejo...a new town for me...on the the Caribbean side of Costa Rica for a couple days. Tomorrow we're headed to San Jose to rent a car and then spend five days traveling up the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.

Yay travel adventures!